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Diplomatics of born digital documents – considering documentary form in a digital environment

Corinne Rogers (School of Library Archival and Information Studies, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada)

Records Management Journal

ISSN: 0956-5698

Article publication date: 16 March 2015

Abstract

Purpose

This paper aims to explore a new model of “record” that maps traditional attributes of a record onto a technical decomposition of digital records. It compares the core characteristics necessary to call a digital object a “record” in terms of diplomatics or “evidence” in terms of digital forensics. It then isolates three layers of abstraction: the conceptual, the logical and the physical. By identifying the essential elements of a record at each layer of abstraction, a diplomatics of digital records can be proposed.

Design/methodology/approach

Digital diplomatics, a research outcome of the International Research on Permanent Authentic Records in Electronic Systems (InterPARES) project, gives archivists a methodology for analyzing the identity and integrity of digital records in electronic systems and thereby assessing their authenticity (Duranti and Preston, 2008; Duranti, 2005) and tracing their provenance.

Findings

Digital records consist of user-generated data (content), system-generated metadata identifying source and location, application-generated metadata managing the look and performance of the record (e.g., native file format), application-generated metadata describing the data (e.g., file system metadata OS), and user-generated metadata describing the data. Digital diplomatics, based on a foundation of traditional diplomatic principles, can help identify digital records through their metadata and determine what metadata needs to be captured, managed and preserved.

Originality/value

The value and originality of this paper is in the application of diplomatic principles to a deconstructed, technical view of digital records through functional metadata for assessing the identity and authenticity of digital records.

Keywords

Citation

Rogers, C. (2015), "Diplomatics of born digital documents – considering documentary form in a digital environment", Records Management Journal, Vol. 25 No. 1, pp. 6-20. https://doi.org/10.1108/RMJ-03-2014-0021

Publisher

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Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2015, Emerald Group Publishing Limited